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The Architecture of Jefferson Country

Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia
K. Edward Lay

BUY Cloth · 362 pp. · 8 × 11 · ISBN 9780813918853 · $49.95 · Jan 2000

The great architectural significance of Albemarle County and Charlottesville, Virginia, rests, not surprisingly, on the continuing influence of Thomas Jefferson. Not only did Jefferson design the State Capitol in Richmond, his home Monticello, his country retreat Poplar Forest, and the University of Virginia; after his death, master builders continued to construct important examples of Jeffersonian classicism in Albemarle County and beyond.

But what is less well known are the many important examples of other architectural idioms built in this Piedmont Virginia county, many by nationally renowned architects. At the turn of the twentieth century, the renewed interest of wealthy clients in eclectic architectural styles attracted some of the finest Beaux Arts architects in the country to the Charlottesville area. Grand new buildings complemented and competed with the Jeffersonian models of a hundred years earlier. In addition, throughout its history Albemarle County has seen construction of a great variety of public architectural landmarks: mills and churches, movie theaters and hospitals, gas stations and taverns.

For many years K. Edward Lay has been teaching, guiding tours of, and writing about this rich architectural legacy. Here at last is his definitive treatment of a topic that has been his life's work, presented in an elegantly illustrated volume. Following a general introduction by John S. Salmon, Lay divides his book into six chronological chapters: "The Georgian Period," "Thomas Jefferson and His Builders," "The Roman Revival (1800-1830)," "The Greek Revival (1830-1860)," "Beyond the Classical Revival," and "The Eclectic Era (1890-1939)." He discusses over 800 buildings, from a Sears house to grand estates, the Abell-Gleason house and the Albemarle County Jail to Wavertree Hall and Zion Baptist Church, with 26 color photographs and 369 black-and-white illustrations complementing his text. A final chapter discusses the University of Virginia. Maps of the area allow readers and visitors to trace the locations of individual buildings and to recognize trends of settlement and construction in the area.

As an elegant giftbook or reference, The Architecture of Jefferson Country gives architects, historians, visitors, and residents an unprecedented view of the wealth of buildings in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.


Professor K. Edward Lay gives us not only a splendid county architectural history but a rich and detailed local context for Jefferson's Monticello and the University of Virginia, which he rightly calls 'two of the world's great examples of the building arts.'.

William Seale, author of The President's House

The Architecture of Jefferson Country is an amazing compendium of research and documentation and a model study of a county's architectural legacy. Albemarle County's architecture mirrors national trends, but also from its soil sprang some of the United States' most refined and historically significant creations and styles. From Thomas Jefferson's important essays at Monticello and the University of Virginia to the sophisticated work of twentieth-century Colonial Revivalists, Albemarle County and Charlottesville contain critically important architecture of interest to the entire nation, indeed, to the world.

Richard Guy Wilson, author of Thomas Jefferson's Academical Village: The Creation of an Architectural Masterpiece and coauthor of The Making of Virginia Architecture

In The Architecture of Jefferson Country Professor Lay draws upon decades of fieldwork and research to provide a detailed portrait of the architectural riches of Albemarle County and Charlottesville. The generous illustrations—old and new photographs, and drawings of floor plans and architectural features—demonstrate the quality and diversity of local building from the eighteenth century into the twentieth, with special emphasis on the nineteenth century. Clearly, Monticello and the University of Virginia are stars in a remarkable constellation.

Catherine Bishir, author of North Carolina Architecture

Thomas Jefferson is as significant to Charlottesville and the United States as Palladio to Vicenza and Italy. This welcome study expands and deepens our understanding of our most important American architect.

Michael Dennis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

About the Author(s): 

K. Edward Lay is Cary D. Langhorne Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia. He is coauthor of A Virginia Family and Its Plantation Houses (Virginia).

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